Thursday, February 6, 2014

Adventures at the Chalet School

My Mum introduced me to the Chalet School series, by Elinor Brent-Dyer, when I was a child and I loved them. There are loads of books in the series, and it is my deepest regret that I did not keep my collection, as they are now very difficult to get hold of, and also very expensive. The first story describes two sisters who move to the mountains for the health of the younger one. The older one sets up a girls school, and the stories that follow describe life in the mountains, and then in Wales, where they are forced to relocate during the war.

The school sounds idyllic. They rotate languages throughout the week, so that the girls become fluent in English, French, and German. They eat delicious local foods, including "kaffee und kuchen". Each book continues the history over the years, and you watch the first pupil, the youngest sister, grow up to have a family of her own, while her friends become teachers at the school or marry. There are also lovely descriptions of the local traditions, and the flora and fauna, and also the introduction of the Girl Guides to the school.
The language is a little dated, but then the first book was published in 1925 (The school at the chalet), and the final one was published in 1970. A complete list is available here. Not only are they good stories, but they also let you imagine what the young people were facing throughout these years, such as WWII. These books are well-written, interesting, and creative, and they provide a wonderful insight to another way of life.A good thing to note in these electronic times, is the way hard copies continue to increase in value, something that I don't think e-books can do.

I have just finished two: Three go to the Chalet School (1949) and The Chalet School wins the trick (1961). It helps having an idea of the earlier characters, but you can still jump around between books. Ideally, I would like to read the whole set, in the right order, but unfortunately, some of the titles are very difficult to come by. I was very lucky to find these two books at a bargain price of 50p each, in a lovely little bookshop in The North Laines in Brighton, so just keep your eyes open and enjoy.

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